BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Great Britain may have the royal family but here on the Gulf Coast, we have something almost as good, if not better -- Mardi Gras royalty. And reigning over the Gulf Coast Carnival Association for the 110th year are King D'Iberville and Queen Ixolib.
This year, that honor goes to Keith Williams and Katherine Rushton. As per tradition, GCCA waited until the Saturday before Fat Tuesday to announce its 2018 royalty.
Adorned in gold and jewels, Williams and Rushton are ready to reign over Mardi Gras.
"This is something that I've dreamed of since I was a little girl," said Rushton. "It truly is an honor to be able to represent Gulf Coast Carnival. It's an association that, to me, really puts the 'unity' into 'community' here on the Gulf Coast."
A Gulfport native, the Saint Patrick High graduation has returned to South Mississippi from Manhattan to carry on a family legacy.
"My stepfather was king back in 2011 and my sister was queen in 2016 so it's really amazing to finally wear the crown, as well," she said.
King D'Iberville agrees with his queen when it comes to family traditions.
"The Oustalets and the Williams families have a long history in Gulf Coast Carnival so I think this is just a culmination of a lifetime of service to the organization, as well as to the Gulf Coast," he said.
Williams is also a Gulfport native and currently serves as regional president of Hancock Bank. Aside from his family connections to GCCA, he is still no stranger to Mardi Gras.
"I can remember as an 8, 9, 10 year old actually participating in the Biloxi parade," he recalled. "It wasn't quite as big and extravagant as it is now but I remember dressing up as a Biloxi Indian with my bicycle and wagon and actually walking the parade."
It's history and memories like that that makes this year's royal couple aware of the honor and responsibility that's been bestowed upon them.
"It's an opportunity that's been close to my heart for years," said Rushton. "I'm just thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to do this."
"We're representing all of the carnival associations on the Coast and representing the people of the Gulf Coast," said Williams. "We have an obligation to them to have a great parade, have a great party for Gulf Coast Carnival, as well as Mardi Gras Day."